What does it mean if a doctor is not a member of the AMA?

If a neurosurgeon is not a member of the AMA, what does that mean? What are the benefits to being a member of the AMA? If a doctor is not a member, is that a red flag that the doctor is sub-par?

It’s a flag that the doctor doesn’t want to pay the dues to be in the AMA, that’s all. AMA:doctors as NRA: gun owners. Not every gun owner wants to contribute to the NRA, and not every doctor wants to contribute to the AMA.

So, it’s not a requirement, more of a club?

It’s not a requirement, no. Many doctors who do not belong to the AMA do belong to their state medical association, but that again is voluntary.

But licensing is done by the states, not the AMA or the state medical associations.

What are the benefits of being a member of the AMA? Does the AMA track its members as to malpractice suits, complaints, etc, that the public can access?

Reasons to join the AMA.

The AMA is basically a union for doctors. And not all doctors join.

But they call it a ‘professional association’ rather than a ‘union’, because they think that sounds better. And since doctors mostly work in individual practices (or did, when AMA started), the AMA doesn’t do contract negotiations like unions. Though as the medical industry is changing from doctors in individual practice to doctors as employees of medical corporations, they are starting to look at more ‘union-like’ functions. Sometimes a specific location has a group of the doctor-employees, separate from the AMA, to do this. Often called a ‘practicioners association’ or a ‘faculty association’. In union terms, that would be called 'Local #nnn" of the union.

The AMA does have some guidelines or standards of professional practice, which somewhat serve to control doctors’ working conditions similar to union rules. Like limits on the number of hours interns can work, for example.
Also, specialists often belong to an association specific to their speciality, either in addition to the AMA, or instead of it. In this case, possibly the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) or the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS).

Looking at things in the opposite direction:

Our old family doctor (when I was a kid and my mom’s doctor for many years afterward) was a total quack. Had no clue about anything.

He was AMA President a while back.

Being/not being in the AMA means nada.

The AMA is less like a union and more like a special interest group, IMHO. I’ve been a member of a doctor’s union, and it works a lot differently from the AMA. (Had to quit the union when I became part of the management team).

I let my AMA membership lapse over 20 years ago, and never missed it. They still faithfully send me the Journal of the AMA, the AMA weekly newsletter, and offers for all the continuing medical education and insurance I can buy!

If you want to see if a MD has been disciplined, here is the site for FL:


Interesting stuff. I found some local MDs in my state with violations that surprised me.

slight hijack-To get into the Oklahoma Bar Association (to practice law) one has to go to an ABA accredited law school. Does the AMA have similar powers, i.e., to have states withhold licensing unless AMA educated?


I think you’re confusing things here.

To practice law in Oklahoma (like in most states), you just have to take & pass the state Bar Exam. You DO NOT have to be a member of the Bar Association, which is really just a professional association of lawyers. (Most lawyers are, though.)

Not so, actually. Oklahoma has what they call a mandatory or integrated bar (http://www.odl.state.ok.us/sginfo/oksg/ok_bar.htm). That means that the state controls the bar association, and membership is mandatory.


But it’s kind of a definitional thing. One does not join the bar association, one becomes a member when she is admitted to the practice of law. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bar_association#Mandatory_or_integrated_bars

As you can see here (http://www.abanet.org/barserv/stlobar.html) many states have mandatory bar associations.

The American Bar Association, though, is as you describe it–a professional association–membership is not mandatory. I was a member when my firm paid the dues. Now, not.

They are also called unified bar associations.

No, you’re far overestimating the powers of the AMA. It’s just a club (okay, special interest organization), that’s all.

It makes suggestions and argues on the behalf of its members to other organizations (including accrediting bodies of various sundry types) and lawmakers but it isn’t like the Bar Assosciation where you have to be a member to practice law (in some states, I know the real answer is far more complex) and they cannot pull anyone’s license.

From here:

" AMA membership was still down slightly at the end of 2005, to 244,005 from 244,530 in 2004, which the organization said was due to several factors including retiring physicians and other doctors dropping discounted or free memberships and older physicians who have passed away. The group still represents less than 30 percent of the more than 800,000 doctors in the United States.

AMA officials say the branding campaign was aimed at increasing the proportion of members who are dues-paying, as opposed to physicians who are exempt from paying dues because they no longer practice medicine. “We need to get doctors writing out the check” for $420 a year, said AMA chief marketing officer Gary Epstein.

In the past, the AMA admits, it has not been unified in its message, and it was criticized by doctors and other groups as being out of touch with everyday physicians.

The group’s credibility took several hits in the last decade that caused membership to spiral downward. It entered into an embarrasing marketing deal with Sunbeam Corp. in the late 1990s. That deal, in which Sunbeam would have paid the AMA to endorse certain of the company’s products, ended with the AMA paying the consumer-products firm $10 million to extract itself from the deal."

Your local bar or medical licensing board (hopefully) won’t be accepting money to endorse a brand of alligator-leather briefcase.

The organization in the US and Canada that accredits allopathic schools is the Liason Committee on Medical Accreditation, which is sponsored by both the AMA and the American Association of Medical Colleges. US osteopathic schools are accredited by the American Osteopathic Association.

Graduates from any of these accredited schools can generally get licensed in any state. However, it is up to each state medical board as to what other schools they will accept–all of them as far as I know will accept graduates form at least some foreign schools (which are obviously not accredited by US organizations) as long as they pass the required tests for licensure. The requirements of the schools vary considerably from state to state; the states generally named as having the most stringent requirements of the schools are New York, California, and Texas.